Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Sign of Contradiction, Part Five

The deep aspect of the Church—called forth by Simeon during the presentation of the infant Christ in the Temple (Luke 2:34)—that so often becomes lost in the modern world, with its comfort, ease, tendency to go along to get along, and lack of easily perceived martyrs—though are not the millions of aborted babies such—yet as Pope John Paul II reminds us, the Church is surely a sign of contradiction in the world.

Over the next six days (first of ten posted on May 9th) I will continue to post excerpts from the final chapter of the first book published in English by John Paul—in 1979—Sign of Contradiction, which is a collection of talks then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla preached during the annual Lenten Retreat in March 1976 to his predecessor, Pope Paul VI.

A related series of articles by Dr. John C. Rao is available online at the Roman Forum, which examines in depth the ongoing war against the Church, as noted by Rao: “For the Church is a force which has proven to be a powerful, effective, rage-provoking “sign of contradiction” to all the many opponents of Christ.” (2nd para., 1st p.)

Excerpt from Sign of Contradiction.

2. The Mystery of Mary

“And so in the vast panorama of the times in which we live, in the age to which we belong, Simeon’s prophecy of Jesus Christ as a “sign of contradiction” seems to ring resoundingly true. We know that immediately after speaking these words Simeon turned to Mary, in a way linking the prophecy about the Son with the one about the Mother: “And a sword will pierce your soul, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare”. With the old man’s words in mind we too turn our gaze from the Son to the Mother, from Jesus to Mary. The mystery of this bond which unites her with Christ, the Christ who is “a sign of contradiction”, is truly amazing.

“In revelation, in holy scripture, Mary has as it were two dimensions. The first is that of a humble, lowly daughter of Israel (cf. Zephaniah 3:12) for whom the Lord did great things (cf. Luke 1:49). This is the Mary we know from Luke’s and John’s gospels. Mary at Nazareth (Luke 1:26-50), Mary at Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12); (Luke 2:4-20), Mary fleeing to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-14. 19-21) and then again at Nazareth (Matthew 2:23; Luke 2:39-52). It is the Mary who asks her 12 year-old son: “Why did you do this?” (Luke 2:48). It is the Mary at Cana in Galilee who gets worried. “They have no more wine” (John 2:3), and then turns to the servants and says: “Do whatever he tells you”. Finally it is the Mary about whom somebody says to Jesus” “Your mother and your brethren are outside waiting to speak to you” (Matthew 12:47) and “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked” (Luke 11:27). And notwithstanding all that he answers: “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?...Anyone who does the will of my Father is my brother and my sister and my mother” (Matthew 12:48-50) (p. 201)